In the same breath, I pride myself on having high expectations for them. Just because they have “X” disability, “Y” family history, or “Z” other myriad circumstances doesn’t change what I believe their potential to be!
Over my first several years teaching though, I have repeatedly found that these two -– loving them for who they are & high expectations -– sometimes conflict in such a way that I don’t know how to proceed.
Check out these examples:
Student #1 I adore for being outgoing, friendly, and contagiously happy! However, she’s loud and has minimal sense of personal space. Regardless of strategies I use and reinforcements I put into place, her performance of my expectations of socially appropriate volume and personal space have not improved.
Student #2 I adore for his passion for music, movies, and history. However, he reacts extremely poorly to constructive criticism and takes no responsibility for his own actions. Regardless of direct instruction, opportunities for generalization, or any collection of strategies for self-determination or natural consequences, progress toward those areas is minimal if any.
Student #3 I adore for her smile, honesty, and unending comical comments. However, she has no filter and says whatever comes to her mind regardless of appropriateness or context. Regardless of redirection and direct instruction on appropriate comments, she continues to say these things.
Bottom line, my students are each wonderfully unique and I cherish each of them. I want and expect the very best for each of them. But how do I balance who they really are with what society and I want them to be? Do I just accept that Student #1 will always be loud? Do I accept that Student #2 will always require special handling for his choices and actions? Do I accept that Student #3 will always just say what she thinks and hope she’s surrounded with people who understand? Or do I stick to my guns with expectations of propriety and maturity?
This is certainly a career with lots and lots of gray area which I simultaneously love and struggle with.